‘The Crawler’ is on the move before the deployment of the Artemis 1 lunar rocket

Everyone’s favorite giant rocket truck is back in action.

Today (March 11), NASA’s Tracked Transport Vehicle 2 (CT-2) began to slowly ‘crawl’ towards the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where it will recover the agency’s Space Launch System Mega Rocket and Orion Spacecraft. The pair are set to launch this summer to the moon with Artemis 1, an uncrewed mission and the first to lift off with the agency’s Artemis program.

Today’s (slow) motion is in preparation for the live action on March 17, when the robot will ferry the rocket to the moon on a 6.4 kilometer journey to Launch Pad 39B.

Related: NASA’s Artemis 1 lunar mission explained in photos

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The CT-2 is one of NASA’s two tracked carrier vehicles, whose primary job is to transport heavy objects like rockets and spacecraft. It’s a massive vehicle, about the size of a baseball field, and it weighs about 6.6 million pounds (2.9 million kilograms). The crawler gets its name from its snail speed, as it travels at a top speed of around 1 mph (1.6 km/h) fully loaded and 2 mph (3.2 km/h) unloaded, according to The NASA.

While the CT-2 is over 50 years old and has traveled more than 2,335 miles (3,758 km) in its lifetime, NASA still expects many more years from the vehicle.

The crawler’s job is currently to retrieve SLS and Orion from the VAB and then, next week, deploy them to the launch pad. The pair is expected to launch on Artemis 1 in May at the earliest. This first Artemis mission will send the Orion spacecraft around the moon and test both the craft and the SLS mega-rocket to see if they are up to the task of launching humans into space safely.

After Artemis 1, Artemis 2, scheduled for launch in 2024, will send a crew of astronauts on missions around the moon and back. Artemis 3, which aims to launch no earlier than 2025, will land humans on the surface of the moon for the first time since 1972, when NASA’s last Apollo moon landing took place.

Email Chelsea Gohd at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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